How to Schedule a War: The Incredible Shrinking Withdrawal Date

None of this, of course, has anything to do with winning hearts and minds, just obliterating them. Not surprisingly, such tactics also generate villagers fleeing embattled farmlands often for “squalid” refugee camps in overcrowded cities.

Flip of the COIN

Suddenly, this war for which General Petraeus has won his counterinsurgency warriors at least a four- to-six-year reprieve is being fought as if there were no tomorrow. Here, for instance, is a brief description from a British Guardian reporter in Kandahar of what the night part of the war now feels like from a distance:

“After the sun sets, the air becomes noisy with US jets dropping bombs that bleach the dark out of the sky in their sudden eruptions; with the ripping sound of the mini-guns of the Kiowa helicopter gunships and A-10 Warthogs hunting in the nearby desert. The night is also lit up by brilliant flares that fall as slow as floating snowflakes, a visible sign of the commando raids into the villages beyond. It is a conflict heard, but not often witnessed.”

None of this qualifies as “counterinsurgency,” at least as described by the general and his followers. It does, however, resemble where counterinsurgencies have usually headed — directly into the charnel house of history.

Chandrasekaran quotes a civilian adviser to the NATO command in Kabul this way: “Because Petraeus is the author of the COIN [counterinsurgency] manual, he can do whatever he wants. He can manage the optics better than McChrystal could. If he wants to turn it up to 11, he feels he has the moral authority to do it.”

We have no access to the mind of David Petraeus. We don’t know just why he is bringing in the big guns or suddenly fighting his war as if there were no tomorrow. We don’t know whether he fears the loss of the backing of an American president or the American people or even the U.S. military itself, whether he despairs of President Karzai or the Taliban, or the whole mission, or whether he has launched his version of a blitz in the most hopeful of moods. We don’t know whether he sees the contradiction in any of this, though no one, the general included, should be surprised when, for all the talk of rational planning and strategy, the irrationality of war — the mass killing of other human beings — grabs us by the throat and shakes us for all we’re worth.

Petraeus has flipped a COIN and taken a gamble. However it turns out for him, one thing is certain: Afghans will once again pay with their homes, farms, livelihoods, and lives, while Americans, Europeans, and Canadians will pay with lives and treasure invested in a war that couldn’t be more bizarre, a war with no end in sight. If this goes on to 2014 “and beyond,” heaven help us. (Bulatlat.com)

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